PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Was this the night it finally came together for Penn?
Thanks to a strong defensive effort and big offensive games from sophomore guards Tyler Bernardini and Harrison Gaines, the Quakers blew out Brown, 73-52, in front of an announced and late-arriving crowd of 1,139 at the Pizzitola Center.
"We did play good defense tonight," Penn coach Glen Miller said. "I was pleased with the effort from a defensive standpoint."
The two teams stayed close early on, and were tied at 21 with seven minutes left in the first half. But an open three by Brennan Votel started a 9-0 Penn run, and at halftime the Quakers took a 39-29 lead into the locker room.
Penn shot an impressive 56.0 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, including 4-for-5 from three-point range. Two of those treys came from Bernardini, who had been in a slump coming into tonight.
"For him to be able to step up and knock a few down really helped us," Miller said of Bernardini.
Penn also won the second half, 34-23, with a combination of good defense and poor Brown shooting. The Bears shot 7-for-26 from the field after halftime, and committed 10 turnovers.
The defensive effort was symbolized by the fact that Bears guard Adrian Williams, who led his team in scoring with 15 points, was held to only one field goal attempt and no points in the second half.
Williams, by the way, is the son of former Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, which gives him better athletic bloodlines than most of the players you'll see in the Ivy League this season.
Bernardini led all scorers with 16 points, while Gaines added 12. The highlight of Gaines' night came with 3.8 seconds to go in the first half, when he slashed through the lane for a nifty layup-and-one and converted the free throw.
Tonight's final score read like the old days of this series, but that was an era the current team's freshmen and sophomores have only read about.
Miller was on the receiving end of some of those results while at Brown. But he also took the Bears to heights not seen in decades, so there weren't as many complaints.
"Penn's not an easy place to coach if you're losing - I think that's an understatement," Miller said to laugher from the pack of reporters outside Penn's locker room. "But a credit to our players is that they come every day and just try to block out all the negatives and keep on working."
Well, there was one negative the players didn't block out. They were well aware of the fact that last weekend's home losses to Columbia and Cornell were the first time since 1968 that Penn was swept at the Palestra on an Ivy weekend.
"Everybody was frustrated, we know we didn't give our best effort" sophomore forward Jack Eggleston said. "Everyone came together and said this can't happen again."
You might recall that after Penn won at Harvard two weeks ago, Eggleston spoke about the challenge posed by the Ivy League's trademark back-to-back games.
Right on cue, Penn lost to Dartmouth the next night. Now they've got another Friday night win, and they're off to face a Yale team that dealt Princeton its first conference loss of the season tonight.
"It just takes energy and effort on the second day," said senior forward Cameron Lewis, who scored 10 points tonight off some solid work under the basket. "It's not matchups or anything, it's just who really wants to win more."
Miller returned to a familiar refrain.
"We're a young team - I've said that a million times and I'll continue to say it," he said. "Our whole thing is to just try and get better every day. If there's a lot of negativity that exists we have to do our best to block it out and have fun playing basketball, and try to get better. So tonight, I think we got better."
In that respect, Miller was certainly right.
Now the question is what comes next.
I figure that many of you have no good reason to travel to Providence any time soon, and that's fair. But if you find yourself here next season for a Penn or Villanova game, there are a few ways to kill time.
Granted, the main attraction in town is an enormous shopping mall a block from the Amtrak station and the State House. But if you get up College Hill towards Brown, there's a much better vibe on Thayer Street, which is the main commercial strip near campus.
And if you walk back down the (very big) hill towards downtown, you'll find a nice strip of bars and restaurants along Waterman Street between Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design.
If you're here during the summer, the best thing to see is the WaterFire display, in which a long series of barrels along the three rivers through downtown Providence are lit up at night. It's an art piece, not a show as such, but it draws a crowd.
Alright, I give up. It's not much. I like this town, but I admit that I'm biased because I have some family roots here. Still, two of the Big 5 teams are here on a regular basis, and that's more than Morgantown, West Virginia can say.
Speaking of Morgantown, you can't be all that surprised by Villanova's 93-72 loss at West Virginia tonight. WVU Coliseum is a nasty place for any visiting team to play, and the Mountaineers still have plenty of talent left over from the last few high-flying seasons.
So we'll split Line of the Day honors into scholarship and non-scholarship divisions, highlighting the performances turned in by West Virginia guard DeSean Butler and Penn's Tyler Bernardini.